Today we are going to talk about songs and how we can use them as a tool for learning English. Songs and their music are part of our lives from the moment we are born. There are even songs that we know perfectly but we only recognize them from their melody even though we have been listening to them all our lives because we don’t understand their lyrics. This is what we have done all our lives but now it is time to stop this ignorance and take advantage of our love of music and learn English in a new and fun way. Bearing in mind there are studies such as those of Daniele Schön, which argue that when we listen to a song, we use the same area of the brain that we use when learning a language, we must consider using music as a tool for learning English.

It is something that we have accepted to be normal, even if we are passionate about music and would like to know what our favourite songs say. However, have you ever considered that we could use the songs which we enjoy listening to so much to learn English in a fun way? Taking into account the studies of Daniele Schön, we should consider using this as a way to learn English.

Enjoying listening to songs in English and taking advantage of them will familiarize us with different accents and disparate contexts and if we dare to show off our artistic side at karaoke, even better. It is true that all that glitters is not gold and nothing is perfect and although songs are a great way to practise listening and speaking, they usually contain basic grammar and the artists even allow themselves to include some grammatical errors because the rhythm of the song requires it.

Songs will help us to become more familiar with colloquial English, we will come across new words by exponentially increasing our vocabulary and we will improve our listening comprehension.
Of course, if we want to learn we will have to select good songs.

 

Characteristics of the best songs for learning English

It is essential that the songs are clear, they are not too long or too fast and they have everyday vocabulary. If possible, the lyrics should have a repetitive chorus, with rhymes and a clear message. Most importantly, they should suit our level of English. Once you have selected the song, listen to it several times, and when you have got used to it, go back and try and transcribe it.

In karaoke we will enjoy learning both spelling and pronunciation and we will hear different accents. However, you should bear in mind that the grammar used in songs nowadays is often poor and the artists allow themselves to leave mistakes in the grammar to make the song sound better. On the other hand, it will help us become more familiar with colloquial English. It is evident that listening to songs in English will provide us with many new words and we will increase our vocabulary exponentially. At the same time we will also improve our listening comprehension.

The most important thing is to choose the right song, because not just any song will be good for this task. Therefore, the song must be clear, not too long or too fast and it must have everyday vocabulary. It is recommended that they contain a message and not just a chorus that is repeated over and over again, and they should contain rhymes.

Of course, it has to be a song that is at our starting level. Firstly, listen to the song several times, to get your ear accustomed to it and then try to write it down like a dictation and check it by reading it. The next step will be to listen to it with the lyrics in front of you and then try to sing it while listening to it without the lyrics.

 

Here is a list of songs you can use to practise it

A1/A2:

  • John Lennon – Imagine
  • The Police – Every breath you take.
  • The Beatles – Yellow submarine.
  • The Beatles – All together now.
  • James Blunt – You’re beautiful.
  • Whitney Houston – I will always love you.
  • The Corrs – Whant can I do.
  • Wallows – Pictures of a girl.
  • Selena Gomez – Only You.
  • Adele – Someone like You.
  • Supertramp – The logical song.
  •  
    B1:

  • Maroon 5 – She will be loved.
  • Oasis – Wonderwall.
  • Alice Keys ft Jay Z – Empire state of mind.
  • Bill Withers – Ain’t no sunshine.
  • Adele – Rolling in the deep.
  • Adele – Hello.
  • Drake/Rihanna – Too good.
  • Coldplay – In my place.
  • Oasis – Wonderwall.
  • Pharrell Williams – Happy.
  • The Police – Every breath you take.
  • Katy Perry – Chained to the Rhythm.
  •  
    B2:

  • Maroon 5 – Sugar.
  • Queen – The Show Must Go On.
  • Adele – Someone like you.
  • LP – Lost On You.
  • Aloe Blacc – I need a dollar.
  • Red hot chili peppers – Give it away.
  • Beyonce – If I were a boy.
  • Miley Cyrus – Malibu.
  • Extreme – More than words.
  • Evanescence – Call me when You’re sober.
  • Hozier – Take me to church.
  •  
    C1 – C2:

  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Can’t hold us.
  • Avicii – Whithout You.
  • Bruno Mars – Finesse.
  • U2 – Beautiful day.
  • Meghan Trainor – Dear future husband.
  • Imagine Dragons – Sucker for pain.
  • Ed Sheeran – Shape of You.
  • Coldplay – Hypnotised.
  • Tones and I – Dance monkey.
  • Nirvana – Smells like teen spirit.
  • Vance Joy – Riptide.
  • Queen – Bicycle.
  •  

    J. Nicolás
    Callan Team
    Translate by G. Harman

    . Schön D., Kraus N., White-Schwoch T. and Intartaglia B. (2017) “Music training enhances the automatic neural processing of foreign speech sounds”
    . Mora, F., & Toscano-Fuentes, (2012) C. “La música como herramienta facilitadora del aprendizaje del inglés como lengua extranjera”. Teoría de la Educación, 24.
    . Clavell, O. (2018) “La forma más divertida de ejercitar listening en inglés” Callan School of English.